Which medications are used in the management of scorpion envenomation?

Updated: Nov 09, 2018
  • Author: David Cheng, MD; Chief Editor: Joe Alcock, MD, MS  more...
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Analgesia may be indicated. Exercise caution when using narcotics for a patient with an unsecured airway because respiratory depressive effects may be synergistic with some scorpion venoms. Some recommend against using narcotics to treat scorpion envenomation with signs of systemic toxicity, especially in children. Tetanus prophylaxis is recommended if the patient cannot verify current status. Prophylactic antibiotic therapy is not required. Corticosteroids have not been shown useful in treating venom toxicity. Hypertensive emergencies may require standard antihypertensive therapy. Conversely, hypotension may require fluid resuscitation and/or vasopressors.

Cardiovascular agents can be used to elevate or decrease blood pressure and increase heart rate. Vasopressors and inotropic agents may be necessary in patients who already have been adequately volume resuscitated but remain in shock. Conversely, antihypertensives may be needed in patients with sympathetic-induced hypertension. In particular, the use of the alpha-blocking agent prazosin has been used and recommended. However, most of the published evidence recommending for or against this agent has come from either retrospective observational or prospective cohort studies. Gupta et al compared dobutamine versus prazosin in children and found mortality in both groups to be equal, but the prazosin group had a quicker resolution in their pulmonary edema (28 h vs 72 h). [41] For prazosin-resistant cardiotoxic cases, a small retrospective observational study that found the addition of dobutamine to the prazosin may be beneficial. [42]

At this time, no clear evidence exists as to which agent is most beneficial in specific circumstances. Autonomic instability from scorpion envenomation may lead to rapid, dramatic fluctuations in heart rate and blood pressure. Although many agents have rapid onset, they may also have prolonged effects. Should a hypertensive patient receive a longer-acting agent they may still have medication effects if they develop subsequent hypotension. In any case, agents should be chosen with detailed knowledge of their pharmacology and understanding of the pathophysiology of scorpion venom described above. Ideally, the agents are effective, have rapid onset, can be titrated to effect, have a short half-life if discontinued, and have minimal side effects.

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